Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Billy: a musical …story by Tom Ryan, music by Billy Strayhorn

This musical production captures the early life and music of Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967) from age 9 through 23.

Billy met Duke Ellington in December 1938. At that meeting, Billy impressed Duke with his piano playing but more so with his talent for arranging. That evening, Billy showed Duke how he would have arranged one of Duke’s songs. Duke Ellington asked Billy to come to New York. He gave Billy directions to his Harlem home. A bit of the directions noted “take the A train” inspiring Billy to write a song that would become Duke’s theme.

...but that's the beginning of another journey.

Billy lived with his grandmother in North Carolina for much of the first ten years of his life. There he learned to play the piano and listened to music on her Victrola. Back in Pittsburgh, Billy worked hard at odd jobs and saved for his own piano. He attended what must have been an amazing high school with great teachers and great atmosphere. Billy was the brains behind a few original high school musical productions.

This is a story about family, hard work, Billy, and a great high school; Westinghouse High School, now called The Academy at Westinghouse.

Act I – North Carolina with grandmother / Pittsburgh
Act II – High School
Act III – Playing out, and playing for Duke
Finale – taking the A Train

...actually my preferred working title for this is "A Train" :-) climb aboard...

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